He settles into his stride,
Crossing at the crosswalk as all good citizens do.
His half-cocked smile, his knowing, grey eyes,
Catch me in mid-glimpse as I stop my car.
He is, after all, crossing legally.
This man, with haughty dignity
And days of dirt on his face, beard, and clothes,
Advises me silently that someone important
Is crossing my path.
I understand fully. I must stop my car.
His jackets look impacted with his life,
Filled, I’m certain, with more clothes, booze,
And tiny bits of memorabilia about which,
If someone else ever found them,
Would have no meaning.
One item screams for my attention:
A brand new pack of Marlboro cigarettes.
It’s a pack of golds.
This gentleman, and I use the word specifically,
Holds them proudly, tightly along with his 49-cent, red lighter.
Could this brand new pack of cigarettes
Be the reason for his cock-surety?
Could his new-found abundance be the reason
I’ve clearly been put in my place?
I did, after all, stop the car when he tacitly demanded I do so.
I suspect that it is not just the cigarettes.
I suspect it is much more.
In his mind – in his world – he is king.
He needn’t receive others’ adulation or affirmation.
He knows who he is.
This proud pack of cigarettes is simply the scepter
Of a royal with sequoia posture and
Fern-like outgrowth on his face.
“Stop the car. Let me pass,” he glances.
“Gladly, my liege.” I obey.
A Single Brick
By James Glica-Hernandez
Carefully, patiently, I lay my bricks,
One on top of the other,
Building the edifice of the
Sturdy, stalwart dam.
No expectations for soaring height
Or vast breadth… at the start, at least.
As the structure grows,
So does the tragic surprise.
Each brick holds back
Another drop of truth unspoken,
Another quivering breath held tight,
Another disappointment hidden.
Avoiding a wretched, free release,
A volume of terrorizing words,
The structure of expressed agony,
These bricks hold life together unchanged.
For should these bricks fail,
Everything would be drowned out
By the thunderous weight and
Suffocating tears of separation and loss.
So, build on shall I
Toward a façade of unvanquished strength
And veiled, unending sorrow
So that others… even me… can maintain our “same.”
Billy Crystal’s character tells Danny Devito’s character in “Throw Momma From the Train,” that “a writer writes, always.” It’s true. Just like a painter paints and a sitter sits. Where my quandry emerges is, not unlike a tree falling in a forest, if one is not published, are the words still more than simple emotive and physical scribbles on a page?
I saw on Craigslist a call for poets to submit their poetry about losing one’s mother. I happened to have lost two mothers, one by birth and my “real” mom by adoption. I have poetry about their deaths.
There is no pay involved and if one or more of the selections are chosen, one receives a copy of the book. I’m certain it is self-published and will come, if at all, with flimsy plastic pages and smeared print. So, why, you may ask, am I submitting my precious gifts at all? Because, my friends, a writer writes always and then they get published.
Am I cynical in believing that what shows up on my resume counts, even if it is a small self-published document like this? Is it important for me to know that perhaps thirty people will own a book with my poetry in it, even if most of those people are the publisher’s family members?
I think it is important. It is valuable at a few levels. One, it states that one believes in his or her work enough to submit it to another person, a stranger, for consideration. Two, if it is published, it is a legitimate entry on one’s work history. Three, someone is there to hear the tree fall in the forest. Someone, outside of the few intimates around one can share in this artistic rendering. With all that going on, one should be very pleased.
Art is about choice making. Every word, brush stroke or note is a message from the author/artist/ composer about who he or she is and what is in their heart. Sharing those choices adds to the pool of veracity and beauty available for the greater consumption.
Yes, it is about self-discipline. Yes, it is about the work. Ultimately, however, it is about the willingness to open ourselves up to others joining the party in our spirits. It is about joining together, artist and patron, to share a common experience.
My door is opening and this is my journey over the treshhold. It is exciting and unnerving and about time.
So, write writers! Paint painters! Compose composers! Always! Just remember to celebrate your art by sending it out to just one stranger if you get the chance. But, finally, it’s your choice.
A Composite Life
By James C. Glica-Hernandez
May 31, 2009
Pieces of lives vie / Budding from one plant / To view the new sky / Each at altered slant.
Every florid bloom / A different shape / Yet all stemming from / One seed held agape.
Each bud, skewered view / Each stem, strong, alive /Each leaf, light renew / Each bush, longs to thrive.
Buds now deadly spent / From its weary limbs, / Dried and cruelly rent / Color finally dims.
Memories linger / As new buds grow. / Changing hues finger / New petals to show.
I was reading today my granddaughter’s poetry on her MySpace blog. Of course, I expected fifteen year old angst about boys and school. My mistake. Although there was a bit of that, most of the poetry was thoughtful and intimate and extremely personal. It got me thinking about our family and art.
In 1851, Medarda Garcia was born and in the 1870’s she married Manuel Lopez with whom she had my great-great- grandmother, Beatrice. Beatrice had many children, three of whom were my grandfather Ralph, my great-grandmother, Gertrude and my Great-Uncle Gene.
Medarda and Beatrice were both accomplished musicians. They also taught music. Uncle Gene was a professional musician. Uncle Gene has since retired considering he is 101 years old.
I am a music teacher and music director and having been born more than 100 years after Medarda, I am, apparently, hardwired with the same music gene as my cousins, uncles and grandparents.
There’s more, though. How is it that an inordinate number of our family is attached in some way with visual, musical or written word art? From my grandchildren to my cousins to my ancestors, we seem to feel an intractable call to communicate, to give voice to our inner most feelings in anyway we possibly can.
So many of my relatives on the Herrera side are multi-faceted artists. Some are filmmakers and writers, visual artists and musicians, graphic artists and experts in marketing, actors and dancers.
On the other side of the question, for a family that is so embued at the genetic level in the arts, why is it we sometimes have such difficulty communicating with our own families?
That, too, seems to be hardwired into our family history.
So, as I return to read my granddaughter’s poetry once again, I remember that I am just one bend in the river of our family art. Medarda and Beatrice and Gene are earlier bends, while my son, James, and my granddaughter, Mary, are simply later bends. We each, in our own way, are helping to create our artistic family landscape with our talents and skills; but, we are not alone and we are not the last.
I doubt that in our family, there will ever be a last artist.